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ATD Blog

Creating Learning Communities to Increase and Retain Women in Leadership

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

In a recent session, I prompted women leaders with: “If you aspire to a more senior leadership role in your company, type YES in the chat.” Responses flooded the chat. And the reasons they felt this aspiration isn’t always feasible soon followed.

When discussing women and mothers in the workforce, work-life balance often takes center stage, but that’s not the only thing women need. Research by McKinsey and Lean In’s Women in the Workplace report shows that while women leaders aspire to advance at work, the need for feeling more supported and included often thwarts the desire. As a result, women and mothers leave for more fulfilling, supportive, and engaging work cultures or leave the workforce entirely.

The big question is, what part can personal and professional development play in solving these problems?

One answer is to focus on creating learning communities specifically engaging and supporting women and mothers, so they don’t feel the need to leave their current work environments.

In the 2021 report The American Upskilling Study, Gallup discovered that close to half of American workers say they would change jobs if offered opportunities to gain new skills, and 65 percent want it to come from their employer while working.

Imagine, for a moment, that a new employee walked into your company and knew within the first five minutes that they supported women and mothers in leadership. How would that look, sound, or feel?

Can someone pick up on this immediately, or would they need to spend a week, a few months, or even a year to conclude?


Women and mothers determine whether they’re supported through the learning and development opportunities available.

Communities of Learning and Practice Should Focus on Skills and Life Topics

According to the Advancing the Future of Women in Business: The 2022 KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report, 86 percent of executive women base their team success on collaboration because they recognize the value of gaining insights from others. With this in mind, here are five ways to make learning communities more engaging for employees:

1. Create small groups of learning communities with no more than five to six participants to provide greater connection and a sense of belonging.


2. Consider using a skill-specific or life topic as the group’s core learning focus, not a company title. This can resemble group coaching on traditional and nontraditional topics, such as productivity and organizational hacks, building habits, networking, building confidence, sleep, travel, financial wellness, caregiving, and leading hybrid teams.

When we help employees find ways to solve their existing problems, they feel more equipped to handle work and life demands.

3. Partner with a diverse bench of consultants with entrepreneurial backgrounds to bring fresh insights to the learning experience. The global workforce has changed significantly in the last five years, and without a playbook on how to adapt to the changing needs, problem-solving approaches require entrepreneurial mindsets.

4. Engage employees as subject matter experts when creating new programs. Include them in the program’s design, implementation, and evaluation. For example, survey each mother in your organization and use focus groups to gain insight into their needs. Involve them in creating any program designed to support them.

5. Increase the frequency of climate and culture surveys and audits specific to women and mothers at work for continuous integration of needs in learning.

Many employees need more time to focus on their personal and professional development outside of work. Caring about what they care about in communities of learning, work, and life quality will increase, as will retaining women and mothers.

About the Author

Monique Russell is the global communications advisor you want on your team. She teaches leaders and teams how to upskill and retain talent through strategic leadership development.

Organizations like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, the Centers for Disease Control, Verizon, Intel, Equifax, and the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International, trust Monique to guide them in implementing communication strategies that foster connection, community, creativity, and courage. You can too.

Monique has 20 years of experience in the science of communications and leads Clear Communication Solutions, an international training, coaching, and consulting firm that focuses on confidently communicating from the inside out.

She is the author of the Ultimate Speaker's Guide and the book Intentional Motherhood: Who Said it Would Be Easy, and host of the Bridge to U podcast.

Connect with her on LinkedIn at and visit her websites: and

1 Comment
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Thank you Monique! These are great suggestions for business resource groups looking to host events that are engaging while also looking for ways to increase and retain women in the workplace.
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